Karen Armstrong talks of her journey from and back to religion. Here, receiving her 2008 TED prize, she outlines a nice idea that I consider impractical and overly optimistic.
The Golden Rule is simple – I learned the principle before age 8 – and it does not require the institution of religion. We learn compassion through socialization and experience. Those with a personal inclination towards compassion do not need religious nonsense in order to behave morally. If humans need anything, it is not religion but rather connectedness.
I think that Armstrong's personal inclination towards (good) religiosity has lead to her failing to see that religious edifices are, and will continue to be, a cognitive, social and political problem.
Why? The religious have largely failed to see the message that Armstrong sees as the basic theme of religions, and some individuals will always take advantage of any power structure. Religious institutions are particularly well suited to usurpation by power mongers. Call any stupid idea "a religion" and sheep will be willing to flock and be fleeced.
In my opinion, Armstrong ought to have paid more attention to her own words:
"Like it or not, fundamentalism is not going to disappear soon. In some places it is going from strength to strength, becoming more extreme."
Links: Books by Karen Armstrong.